With Rip, Prince and potentially Ben Gordon absent from the Pistons lineup tonight, the Sixers will be facing a team increasingly in love with the jumpshot, yet oddly unable to convert them (at least from deep). Obviously, there's no better time to get your mechanics worked out than when you're playing the Sixers. Preview and game thread after the jump.
Ben Gordon is listed as questionable for tonight's game with a tweaked ankle, so factor in or out his three-point shooting acumen when you read the rest of this preview (he's a career 41.2% shooter from distance, but only shooting it at a 35.1% clip so far this season.
I haven't seen much of the Pistons this season, though I've certainly read plenty about what a great GM Joe Dumars is. Oddly, I haven't seen much criticism thrown his way this year, even though his two big free agent acquisitions (Charlie Villaneuva and Ben Gordon), have both lost their starting spots. Check out the starting lineup Detroit has run with over the past four game:
- Ben Wallace
- Jason Maxiell
- Jonas Jerebko
- Rodney Stuckey
- Chucky Atkins
I assume John Kuester is trying to make lemonade, opting for rebounding and defense over jump shooters who defend like Willie Green, but he really doesn't have enough depth to make that philosophy stick. Instead, you've still got a bunch of guys who love shooting threes, but can't hit one to save their lives. Take a look at the attempts/36 minutes from three and the shooting percentage for their key guys:
- Villaneuva: 5.1 attempts, 31.2%
- Stuckey: 1.4 attempts, 22.2%
- Bynum: 1.8 attempts, 25%
- Gordon: 4.6 attempts, 35.1%
- Austin Daye: 3.6 attempts, 34.8%
- Chucky Atkins: 6.7 attempts, 23.5%
- Jonas Jerebko: 2 attempts, 30.8%
As a team, they average 14.6 three-point attempts per game and convert at only a 30.8% clip. As a point of reference, the Sixers attempted 13.07 threes per game last seasons, and hit 31.8% of them. The only guy on the list above who should even think about shooting threes regularly is Ben Gordon. That guy can shoot, I think playing with these stiffs must've somehow rubbed off on him.
So here's the big question, will we see a truly pitiful three-point shooting team tonight, or will they look like sharp shooters when given wide-open looks just about whenever they want them? Can the Sixers defense perform miracles again and help the Pistons overcome their fatally flawed shooting and mismatched roster?
I refuse to say three-point defense is a key to the game against a team that shoots the three this poorly. Three-point defense should be a given against Detroit, so I'm going to discount it for now and shine a light on two other aspects of defense: Defensive rebounding and stopping penetration.
The first is simple, play the big lineup for big minutes and the boards should take care of themselves. Sammy and Brand will have to work against Big Ben (4.9 OREB/36), Maxiell (3.5 OREB/36) and Kwame Brown (3.5 OREB/36), but they should be up to the task. The key may be Thad Young's ability to keep the Swede off the glass. Jerebko averages 2.6 O-boards per 36 as well. Of course, when you shoot 44% as a team, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for offensive rebounds. The front court needs to take care of the glass, that's the primary concern for me.
Secondary (only because Chucky Atkins is starting over Bynum) is keeping the guards out of the lane. Iverson will probably start on Atkins, who shouldn't be able to take advantage of AI3's defensive weaknesses too much, with Iguodala on Stuckey. Iguodala should be able to shut Stuckey down. When Bynum comes in, I would actually think about shifting Iguodala onto him, or subbing in Jrue to handle him. Bynum will get into the lane and wreak havoc. Instead, expect to see a zone, which actually isn't a horrible idea against a poor shooting team.
Speaking of Jrue, he's probably back tonight, so we'll see if the Ed's were playing lip service, or if he really is going to get his 15-20 minutes/night going forward. My gut tells me he's behind Willie in the rotation unless Jordan has had his nuts cut off with mandates from Stefanski. Time will tell.
Overall, I had the Sixers winning this game on SixersBeat last Thursday, and I'll stand by that. I see Detroit is almost the opposite of the Sixers, they have a purely offensive roster and a coach who realizes they need to defend to win, but doesn't have the pieces. The Sixers have a defensive roster and a coach who doesn't realize you need to defend to win and continually submarines the team by playing units which he sees as slightly better offensively, even if they're atrocious on the defensive end. Usually I'd give the edge to the coach who gets it, but in this case, the Sixers simply have a much better roster. Sixers win by double digits, AI goes off for 25+, you heard it here first.
Key to The Game: Defensive rebounding.
If ______________ I will lose my shit: Willie plays more minutes than Jrue.
This is your game thread, I'll be here throughout so join me for a couple lighthearted F-bombs and the usual back-and-forth.